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Prayers as Incense


Psalm 141 1-2 God, come close. Come quickly! Open your ears—it’s my voice you’re hearing! 
   Treat my prayer as sweet incense rising; 
      my raised hands are my evening prayers. 

ImageBut God, dear Lord, I only have eyes for you. 
Since I’ve run for dear life to you, take good care of me. 

After 43 years of life as a Christian, I am still learning how to ask God to take good care of me!  After ten years of being a pastor I am still learning how to run for dear life toward God (and I am a runner by nature. . . sometimes I find myself running the wrong direction!)

You would think I would learn, wouldn’t you?  You would think I would trust!  And yet, when I spend time in prayer. . . as my prayers rise before God as incense, I am reminded over and over of what I should KNOW BY NOW!  I am shown something deeper and deeper about who I am, and more importantly who God is!  I don’t always like what I see about myself.  I see loneliness in a crowd.  I see pain that is very old and left unhealed.  I see the reasons why I do things, even though they might be good things, aren’t always done for the right reasons.  I see what a sinner I am in desperate need of grace.  So I pray some more. . . often frantic, often in a panic, often sobbing until God calms me down and says, “You are precious to me.  Don’t you see that?  It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks.  I have enough love for you to fill you up to the top- overflowing even!  When will you trust me with your life?” And then slowly. . . over the course of hours when it gets really painful and crushing, I am calmed by the Spirit and I can relax and instead of pelting God will prayers like hailstones, I can let my prayers rise like the smoke from these candles in the image I shot of our altar.

(If you look closely at this image you can see smoke rising from the candles that were just blown out.)

What an image the Psalmist depicted when he said that prayers rise up like incense.   This smoke wafts heavenward from the extinguished candles on the altar.  Imagine our prayers drifting slowly toward God. . . curling upward or whatever way the wind might take and bend them. . . finally landing in the lap of our heavenly Father.  Imagine that same loving Father inviting us to come and sit awhile. . . I can hear him saying to me, “Amy, it’s going to be alright, this struggle you are turning over and over in your mind and heart.  When you allow yourself to be exposed to me, I will be there to reveal to you exactly what you need to know about us- you and me, kid.”

There is an us- me and God.  You have that same “us” in your life- you and God.  There is nothing so small or insignificant that our heavenly Father won’t be concerned with and when we find ourselves sobbing, tears running down our faces, noses stopped up from too long spent weeping, eyes swollen from crying God pulls us to his chest and we are invited to sit in his lap and join our two heartbeats together.  Come and rest awhile here. . . listen to the rhythm of the divine heartbeat, let your heart beat synchronize with the heart of God.  Let him wipe away your tears and fill you with joy.  There’s nothing to worry about. . . we have God who loves us so deeply that he promised through Jesus to never leave us.  Ever.

You  probably never get that frantic!  You probably never find yourself in a panic over something you cannot even explain.  But I have. . . more than once, twice, three times!  And always on the other side of the darkness is the loving God who calls me “precious” and “lovable.”  For that I give thanks and praise and let my prayers of gratitude rise like smoke from a blown out candle.


One Comment leave one →
  1. 1March2012 19:47

    Do we ever truly learn, to run full force, right smack into the arms of Him who longs to hold us? Why are we so afraid? He made us, after all – fearful and wonderful and all of that. So, I determine, just for this day, to turn around and run in the right direction for a change.

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